While most men are gearing up for Valentine’s Day with lace teddies and service station flowers, my husband treated me instead to a romantic kid-free break at last weekend’s Wellington Rugby Sevens, my first experience of this event. Like Halloween and Mardi Gras, the two-day tournament has gained fame as an enormous costume party, where the best costume takes precedence over the best rugby team.
Throughout the weekend downtown Wellington thronged with every conceivable character: Gene Simmons, Frankenstein, Pocahontas, Queen Elizabeth II, naughty nurses, Edward Scissorhands, Postman Pat, the Cat in the Hat, Wonder Woman, and each family member from the Flintstones, Dino included. Book characters were popular: in a single trip around the concourse I encountered Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Thomas the Tank Engine, Captain Hook and Tinkerbell, Little Miss Sunshine, and a bunch of Noddys. For a time, everyone wanted to be someone else. Wearing a peaked hat and an impossibly short skirt, I was a seventies airline hostess (which meant I had my bottom pinched a lot).
Putting on a costume allows us to take on a different persona, to be someone completely unlike our true selves, with all the attributes and talents of that person: a Genghis Khan costume transforms a shy office worker into an audacious warrior; denim shorts teamed with pink and white gingham and a suburban mum metamorphoses into a sassy, saucy Daisy Duke. Wish you were a suave secret agent with an eye for the ladies? Dress up as James Bond. Looking for fun and flirty? Add a wig and a pout and play the role of Marilyn. It seems the appeal of the dressing up box never grows old.
But a writer need not change her clothes or even leave her desk to try on another persona. She simply dips into her imagination, conjuring up new people, creatures and realities. Suspense writer Michael Connelly has probably never been a psychotic serial killer, but he can imagine being that person keenly enough to craft a believable character. Arthur Golden imagines himself in the soft sandals and white makeup of a Japanese geisha, and David Hair walks in the shoes of a 15 year old boy with a gift for carving and a destiny traversing two parallel New Zealands. Gifted writers take us out of ourselves, making us believe in a boy who never grows old, in small creatures with overlarge feet who save the world from the forces of evil, and in supercomputers who dare to dream.
So next time I have a hankering to step out of this reality, I could avoid having my bottom pinched by reading a book instead.
Published in B.O.P. Times, 13 Feb 2010